Last update: April 12, 2012 07:31:00 AM E-mail Print


Interpretation of the Merino Scorecard

PD Rose


FOR instructional purposes, the value of the score-card lies in the use of a scale of points whereby comparisons can be made, such comparisons being especially necessary in the elementary stages of judging, when the necessity of impressing the location and relative values of the different parts of the animal is greatest; for as experience in the art of judging is gained, the score-card is gradually discarded. The values assigned are relative, and necessary to form a basis for comparison with the ideal.

The arrangement of the scale of points is, for the sake of convenience, grouped under two main headings, "Build and Constitution" and "Covering." Forty-five marks are allocated to points indicative of build and constitution, and fifty-five to covering. This division of marks is necessary, as a greater number of points must be judged under the latter heading, but that fewer marks are allocated to build and constitution does not mean that these are of minor importance.

These main headings are in turn sub-divided into minor headings (Head, horns, face, etc.) to which numerical values are allocated. These values are assigned to the group of parts which come under consideration in any particular sub-heading, no relative value being allocated to individual parts, e.g.. when judging head, horns, face (first sub-heading) no definite number of marks is assigned to breadth of muzzle, correctness of jaw, etc., but to the head as a unit.

Any number of marks may be deducted for anyone defect, the number so deducted depending entirely on degree, and the discretion of the judge. If the fault is sufficiently serious, all the marks for that sub-heading may be deducted, in which case the defect will be an absolute disqualification.

"Score-Card" or "Point judging" may, then, be considered to be the art of estimating the value of individual parts of the animal body, allocating marks to groups of points under various sub-headings, which are finally considered as a unit.


Scorecard Judging

The following points are to be considered under the various sub-headings:-We know by experience that certain factors are closely correlated, e.g. length with strength of fibre, density with development, etc. The judge should, therefore, always use his discretion when allocating marks for any particular point, giving credit when a desirable feature not usually expected, is found.


The Score Card

Drafted by the Sheep and Wool Officers of the Grootfontein School of Agriculture.

Merino scorecard


Build and constitution

Maximum marks

Head, horns, face


Top and underlines

Depth and length of body, spring of ribs

Size and vigour

Bone, set of legs, carriage



Quality and evenness of quality

Substance and staple formation

Length and uniformity of length

Density and uniformity of density

Colour, yolk

Belly and points


Grand total


















Description of Terms

Head.-Shape, size and quality of horn; breadth and length of muzzle; quality of face; freedom from jowls, kemp, smutty blotches and superfluous wool; correct set of jaws, etc.



Frontal Development:

Sufficient development is of primary importance, the ideal being three fairly distinct folds, the first hanging below the chin in "ruff" or bib fashion (not as jowls), the second being lower and broader, while the third should hang well below the brisket, and spread over the full width of the chest.


Body Development:

Absolute freedom from body development is desirable, though difficult to obtain, with other desirable features, bulk, etc.

Slight body development, i.e. small body wrinkles scarcely noticeable in full fleece; rose tail; a small fold behind the forearm and on the flank, should not be regarded as defects, though on the other hand they must not be considered indicative of superiority. All other things being equal, the absolutely plain-bodied ram should be given preference.


Top and Underlines

Top Line:

An imaginary line, judged when the sheep is viewed from the side, starting from the top of the head (which should be held well above the body), it should curve downwards towards the wither and run from there as level as possible to the tail. A badly set head spoils a good top line.

N .B.-Incorrect set of head, neck, hollow back, and drooping rump, are defects judged under this sub-heading.

A slight sagging between the wither and rump, and droop from rump to tail, though not desirable, may be considered in the light of a breed characteristic.


Underline :

An imaginary line, starting from the bottom of the last fold (which should hang to knee level) and running from there as straight as possible to the hock. There should be no cutting up behind the shoulder and in the flank; also a deficient apron will spoil what might otherwise have been a good underline.


Depth and Length of Body and Spring of Ribs

These points should be judged for their symmetrical correctness in the individual, though the symmetrically correct big sheep will invariably score more marks than a symmetrically correct small sheep.


Size and Vigour


does not necessarily mean height, but a combination of points which give weight on the hook.



Should be considered as a constitutional alertness, thrift, and active strength.


Bone, Set of Legs, Carriage


Substantial bone is required; marks should only be deducted for a deficiency of bone.

N .B .-Too coarse bone is seldom met with in the Merino.


Set of Legs:

Front and hind legs should be straight and-set wide apart, to give width of chest and udder-room.

Cow-hocks, and abnormally knocked knees are disqualifications. Any defect not noticeable while the sheep is being held, may be judged under carriage.



The agility and correctness with which the sheep moves, and holds its head.


Quality, and Evenness of Quality

Our ideal is to breed for as much covering with as little variation as possible, but experience has taught that bulk is difficult to get without the introduction of development. Variations in quality do exist in the fleeces of absolutely plain-bodied sheep, but the occurrence of body development of any kind increases this undesirable diametric variation throughout the entire fleece.

Frontal development with slight development on the body (provided the latter is not very noticeable when the sheep is in full fleece), rose tail, small fold behind forearm and on the flank are, therefore, considered and tolerated as associates of bulk in stud sheep. However, it must be clearly understood that the variation between the quality of wool on the folds and on the body itself must not be too great, and that the degree of quality for the strength of wool on these wrinkles must also be present.

Strictly speaking, marks should be deducted for unevenness of covering, where the slightest variation occurs; in practice, however, marks are not deducted if the abovementioned conditions are fulfilled. When large body folds are present (i.e. those clearly visible when in full fleece), marks should be deducted for irregularity of quality, even though the folds carry good quality wool.

NOTE.-The variation in strength between the wool on the body folds and that between these folds, is invariably greater the larger the folds,


The Undesirability of Hair is Obvious.

Substance, a nd Staple Formation

Substance :

This is indicated by fullness of handle, non-compressibility.


Staple formation:

Fine wools are naturally smaller stapled than are strong wools. The lack of staple formation should, therefore, only be judged; i.e. when no staples are present or when the staple begins to break into rope or stringlike formation.


Length and Uniformity of Length

Should be judged in relation to the fineness of fibre; e.g. 70's wool, 3 inches long, should be considered as being of good length, whereas at least 3¾ inches is necessary in a 60's quality wool.

Evenness of length throughout the whole fleece, though desirable, is almost impossible to attain; slight variation, say below an ½ inch, should not, therefore, be regarded too severely.

Marks should be deducted for unevenness of length only when the difference is obvious without resorting to actual measurement.


Density, and Uniformity of Density

Means the close proximity of fibre growth on a given surface of skin.

Outward appearances usually indicate density fairly accurately, but judgment is assisted by lateral compression with the hand; also by the ease with which the wool is pressed apart when being opened up, and by the amount of skin so revealed.

NOTE.-Extreme length is sometimes significant of a lack of density which actually does not exist; careful discernment is, therefore, necessary when wools of different lengths are being judged.


Colour and Yolk


White (not chalky), light cream, and white with a tinge of green, are desirable colours.



A fluid yolk of any of the abovementioned colours is desirable. A superfluity or deficiency is equally objectionable, the desired quantity being sufficient to lubricate the fibres and produce a darkish, mottled tip. The judge should use his discretion when, sheep have been obviously well treated (housed and rugged) and vice versa.

Pasty, sticky, lumpy yolk of a rusty colour, is most objectionable.


Belly and Points

The wool on the belly and points should approximate as closely as possible in all respects to that on the remainder of the body.

Generally, however, a depreciation in all respects is noticeable, especially in quantity, length and colour.



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